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Originally published April 28, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 28, 2005 at 1:29 PM

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Blaine Newnham

Teens in NBA? They deserve choice even if it's bad

Lorenzo Romar spent two years recruiting Marvin Williams from Bremerton. He spent another two years recruiting Martell Webster of Seattle...

Special to The Seattle Times

Lorenzo Romar spent two years recruiting Marvin Williams from Bremerton. He spent another two years recruiting Martell Webster of Seattle Prep.

Between them, they are likely to play one season of college basketball.

"Sure, I'd do it again," said Romar, the Washington men's basketball coach. "As long as you've got a deep class, you have to take a chance recruiting players of that quality."

Williams toyed with the idea of going to Washington before signing on with North Carolina, where he was the sixth man on a team that won an NCAA championship this season. He has since declared early for the NBA draft.

Webster, a year behind, did sign with the Huskies last fall — reflecting the general improvement in the program — but now seems bent on entering the draft along with Williams and avoiding college all together.

Best guess is that Williams will be among the top five players taken in the draft, and Webster among the next six.

If Webster is taken No. 11 by Orlando, as some are suggesting, he might be drafted ahead of Channing Frye, Sean May, Rashard McCants, Wayne Simien, Ike Diogu, Francisco Garcia, Salim Stoudamire, Ronny Turiaf and Joey Graham.

Not to mention his UW teammate-never-met, Nate Robinson.

If this sounds crazy, it is. But it also the way of the NBA, where potential is always more important than production. Where I think teams would draft 12-year-olds if they could.

The Sonics spent a No. 12 pick last year and more than $4 million to have Robert Swift dress up and sit on their bench. Why not Martell Webster?

I've seen Webster play. You walk away in awe.

On the other hand, if you were Romar and had a choice of having Webster play one year at Washington or keeping Brandon Roy from giving up his senior season for the NBA draft, I think you'd take Roy.

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I know you would. He is a far superior player, almost as gifted physically but with a far more advanced sense of the game.

Years ago, Roy sat in Edmundson Pavilion watching Romar's first game as Washington coach. With eight minutes to play, Romar sat down his recalcitrant star, Doug Wrenn, for good as the Huskies ended up losing to Montana State.

"I thought, man, he's willing to lose a game just to make a statement," Roy said later.

Roy understands first-hand the value of selfless, seamless play. He has a mentor in Romar. He can, at some point, get a college degree.

I don't buy the notion that he is another exploited college athlete.

On the other hand, I don't think it appropriate that the NBA negotiate a 20-year-old minimum-age rule with its players union as it might this summer when the old collective-bargaining agreement expires.

There are teenagers who don't belong in college, who desperately need the money, who are old enough to serve in Iraq and who are capable of playing in the NBA.

The kids have proven they can play. The last two NBA rookies of the year, Amare Stoudamire and LeBron James, were fresh out of high school. Seven of the 24 players in this season's NBA All-Star Game never attended college.

It is not Webster's fault that the Magic might make him a lottery pick.

Surely, both the college and professional games would benefit from the age rule. Imagine how much Webster's value to the NBA would be enhanced by not only the fundamentals he would learn at Washington, but the exposure he would get.

Or how the college game would have benefited if James and Carmelo Anthony had been in school this year, and in the Final Four.

It is not improbable that the prospect of a 20-year-old rule is pushing Webster to get in the NBA while he can. If the rule is passed — and survives court challenges — then Webster would have to play at least two seasons at Washington.

Which would be good for him and UW, but that isn't the point when you need the money and when you've known serious injury in high school, as Webster has. And when, of course, the NBA is ready to give it to you.

The prospect of the 20-year-old rule also had to help Roy in his decision to stay at Washington. Next year's draft could be devoid of U.S. and foreign teenagers, improving his status.

Webster is taller by an inch than Roy. He has more range with his floating three-point shot. He looks as if he could be stronger, perhaps even more explosive inside.

But he has yet to show he knows how to play without the ball.

There is already a mock NBA draft for 2006. On it is Spencer Hawes, the 6-foot-11 center from Seattle Prep who will be a senior next year.

Hawes is good. North Carolina coach Roy Williams was in Seattle this week for the Sonics' playoff games. It is more likely he was here to recruit Hawes.

But, again, we're talking about potential.

Imagine, two NBA players — Webster and Hawes — from a high-school team that couldn't beat Issaquah and get to the state tournament.

How out in front of ourselves can we get?

Blaine Newnham: 206-464-2364 or bnewnham@seattletimes.com

A mock draft
This is nbadraft.net's take on how the first round of the NBA draft in June could go. Team selections are in order of regular-season record. The picking order of the lottery teams (the 14 that didn't make the playoffs) has yet to be determined.
# Team Player Ht. Pos. Yr. School (country)
1. Atlanta Andrew Bogut 7-0 C So. Utah
2. New Orleans Marvin Williams 6-9 SF Fr. North Carolina
3. Charlotte Chris Paul 5-11 PG So. Wake Forest
4. Utah Deron Williams 6-3 PG Jr. Illinois
5. Portland M. Andriuskevicius 7-3 C Luthuania
6. Milwaukee Fran Vazquez 6-10 PF Spain
7. Toronto Chris Taft 6-10 PF So. Pittsburgh
8. New York Gerald Green 6-8 SF Houston-Gulf Shores HS
9. Golden State Raymond Felton 6-0 PG Jr. North Carolina
10. L.A. Lakers N. Aleksandrov 6-10 SF Serbia
11. Orlando Martell Webster 6-7 SF Seattle Prep
12. L.A. Clippers Tiago Splitter 6-11 PF Brazil
13. Charlotte Charlie Villanueva 6-11 PF So. Connecticut
14. Minnesota Antoine Wright 6-7 SG Jr. Texas A&M
15. New Jersey Channing Frye 6-11 C Sr. Arizona
16. Toronto Danny Granger 6-8 SF Sr. New Mexico
17. Indiana Sean May 6-8 PF Jr. North Carolina
18. Boston Rudy Fernandez 6-5 SG Spain
19. Memphis Ersan Iiyasova 6-9 SF Turkey
20. Denver Johan Petro 7-0 C France
21. Phoenix Rashad McCants 6-3 SG Jr. North Carolina
22. Denver C.J. Miles 6-6 SG Dallas-Skyline HS
23. Sacramento Hakim Warrick 6-8 SF Sr. Syracuse
24. Houston Jarrett Jack 6-3 PG Jr. Georgia Tech
25. Seattle Andray Blatche 7-0 PF S. Kent Prep (N.J.) HS
26. Detroit Joey Graham 6-7 SF Sr. Oklahoma State
27. Utah Wayne Simien 6-8 PF Sr. Kansas
28. San Antonio Monta Ellis 6-2 SG Jackson-Lanier (Miss.) HS
29. Miami Kennedy Winston 6-6 SG Jr. Alabama
30. New York Francisco Garcia 6-7 SG Jr. Louisville

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